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SWFL Immigration Specialist Talks Haitian TPS

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Candice Villarreal
U.S. Navy
Haitians fill a ferry in Port-au-Prince after the 2010 earthquake.

The Trump Administration announced its decision Monday night to end Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for the nearly 50 thousand Haitian nationals who have been living in the U.S. since the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200 thousand people.

RELATED: Here's an Update on the Temporary Protected Status Program

Haitians living under TPS in the U.S. will have that protection terminated on July 22, 2019. This gives them 18 months to return to Haiti or become subject to detention and deportation.

Christina Leddin is an immigration specialist at the Amigos Center, which has locations in Bonita Springs and Fort Myers. She said on Gulf Coast Live that many of her clients came from Haiti after the earthquake seven years ago, and now, they’re concerned they may have to go back.

"I've had clients tell me their blood pressure has gone up. They're under stress; they can't sleep," Leddin said. "I've told them, ‘Just take a deep breath. We'll take it one step at a time.’”

Then-Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly gave a six-month extension to TPS for Haitians back in May that is effective through Jan. 22, 2018. At the time, the DOH said Haitians should use the six months to "prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States."

Leddin says the 18-month extension is better than what she expected but is still not good news to most of these families.

“First, we got that six months. Now, we’ve got 18 months, but you know, it’s a lot of just calming of fears," Leddin says. "And, then, now, of course, knowing 'When can I reapply?' But, we can't do it yet."

Countries can be designated for TPS if there is an armed conflict or natural disaster that makes it unsafe to return home. Right now, that includes Haiti and nine other nations.

Of the more than 400,000 people living in the U.S. with TPS, 44,000 from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras live in Florida.

Many of the Haitians living and working here send money home. In fact, the World Bank concluded that nearly 30 percent of Haiti’s 2016 GDP came from money sent from family members abroad.

Leddin says the current financial situation makes her doubt Haiti has improved enough to send some 50 thousand people back to the island any time soon.

You can hear Leddin's full thoughts in the TPS Gulf Coast Live segment from earlier this week.

Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.